This month’s book club pick is Becky Albertalli’s Love, Creekwood. Released in the same month (Pride Month June 2020) was Hulu’s Love, Victor, a 10 episode spin-off series of the film Love, Simon.
The series is created by Love, Simon scriptwriters Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger. Love, Simon was criticised for its very white and privileged, upper middle-class, coming-out-story. The creators have attempted to correct this with the focus on Latinx teenager with conservative working-class parents.
Michael Cimino stars a Victor Salazar, a half Puerto Rican and half Columbian teenager who moves to Atlanta from Texas with his family.
Unlike Simon, Victor lives in a modest apartment with his working-class religious parents Isabel and Armando (Ana Oritz and James Martinez), and younger siblings Pilar (Isabella Ferreira) and Adrian (Mateo Fernandez).
Ortiz not surprisingly is the standout of the cast. It is good to see the characters of Victor’s parents more developed than the parents in Love, Simon.
As soon as the Salazar family arrive they meet socially awkward neighbour and fellow Creekwood High student Felix Weston (Anthony Turpel). Felix is definitely my favourite character.
Victor finds himself drawn both to popular Creekwood High student Mia Brooks (Rachel Hilson) and openly gay coffee shop co-worker Benji Campbell (George Sear).
Victor questioning his sexuality reaches out to Simon Spier (from Love, Simon) via Instagram DM. Nick Robinson reprises his role narrating the messages to Victor. He also makes a guest appearance towards the end of the series. Keiynan Lonsdale also reprises his role as Bram.
Natasha Rothwell, who played drama teacher Ms. Albright in the film is now Vice Principal, but disappointingly only appears in the first episode. Comedienne Ali Wong fills the comic relief teacher void playing sex education teacher Ms. Thomas.
The core cast is rounded out with Mia’s social media obsessed friend Lake Meriwether (Bebe Wood) and arrogant bully jock Andrew (Mason Gooding).
The series is charming, but unfortunately like Love, Simon it is rather safe in its LGBTQ+ portrayal. It has been renewed for a second season, so hopefully next season it will push the envelope further.
It’s been more than a year since Simon and Blue turned their anonymous online flirtation into an IRL relationship, and just a few months since Abby and Leah’s unforgettable night at senior prom.
Now the Creekwood crew are first years at different colleges, navigating friendship and romance the way their story began – by email.
Love, Creekwood is a novella that serves as an epilogue to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2015), The Upside of Unrequited (2017), and Leah on the Offbeat (2018).
It follows Simon, Bram, Leah and Abby during their freshmen year of college.
The novella is epistolary and is told entirely in emails back and forth between the Creekwood gang, which also includes emails from Nick, Garrett and Taylor, but the focus is on the relationships of the core four.
Leah and Abby are college dorm roommates, but Simon and Bram are in a long distance relationship with Simon in Philadelphia and Bram in New York City.
The novella is only 111 pages, so it is a quick read. It is definitely one for fans of the Simonverse series, as it reveals key plot points from the earlier novels, such as the identity of Blue. While it was sweet and nostalgic revisiting these characters I felt that the story was lacking substance.
Albertalli is donating royalty profits from the book to American LGBTQ+ organisation The Trevor Project.
Love, Creekwood was released during Pride Month June 2020 alongside the Hulu series Love, Victor, which is a 10 episode spin-off series of the film adaptation Love, Simon.
Series: Direct sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Country: United States of America
Publisher: Balzar & Bray
First Published: 2018
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually right on the beat – but real life is a little harder to manage. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends she’s bisexual, not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friendship group starts to fracture. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high, and its hard for Leah when the people she loves are fighting – especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended…
Becky Albertalli returns to the world of her acclaimed debut novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, in this warm and humorous story of first love and senior-year angst.
We were first introduced to Leah Burke in Becky Albertalli’s 2015 debut novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.
In this novel Simon takes a back seat as his best friend Leah narrates her senior year. Leah is not necessarily the most likeable protagonist. She can be very abrasive and judgemental. I actually found it refreshing to have a voice that is vulnerable and flawed – she is still figuring things out.
Leah identifies as bisexual, but she is only out to her mom – has been since middle school.
The story follows Leah as she develops a crush on one of her friends, as well as dealing with the usual pressures of senior year – prom, preparing for college, graduation and saying farewell to your high school friends.
It is positive to see a young bisexual woman who is comfortable with her own body and diverse POC representation.
There have been some criticisms of the novel. One criticism is that there were no hints to Leah’s sexuality in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, as a result some readers have felt that the novel is more of a fan fiction of Albertalli’s earlier work. Some readers have also been critical Leah policed another character’s identity when she came out as ‘low key bi’, and did not apologise for this judgement.
Leah on the Offbeat is not as good as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and I don’t think it had a chance to live up to Simon vs. I think itwould have worked better as its own story with a new set of characters – that being said it was nice to see Simon and Bram again.
It has been 8 days since I saw Love, Simon, so today I thought I would do a book vs. film comparison.
A film adaptation can never be exactly the same. Often for timing and pacing reasons not everything can be included – it can be disappointing for book fans to learn that a favourite moment or character has been cut.
Also some elements that work on the page may not necessarily work onscreen. For example, much of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is written using the email correspondence between Simon and Blue. It was obviously a challenge for the scriptwriters to work out how to and how much of this to portray onscreen. Love, Simon has Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale), Cal (Miles Heizer) and Lyle (Joey Pollari) each take turns voicing Blue’s emails as Simon tries to work out Blue’s identity. This is a interesting technique to cover the mystery of who Blue is.
I believe that books and film adaptations should be viewed as separate entities. Although having said that, Love, Simon has captured the spirit and heart of the book. Albertalli herself has said she feels that the film is a ‘faithful adaptation’ of her work.
Below are some differences between the book and the film. This is by no means comprehensive (spoilers ahead…)
The first noticeable change is that the film has shorter title. Personally I think the title works for the film.
Simon’s email address
In the book Simon emails from firstname.lastname@example.org. In the film Simon uses the email email@example.com. Blue uses the email firstname.lastname@example.org in both the book and film.
Junior Year / Senior Year
The novel is set during Simon’s junior year, whereas the film is set during his senior year.
In the book Simon wears glasses and later wears contacts for the school musical. In film Simon wears glasses only in the flashback scenes. Robinson does not wear glasses in the present day scenes to minimise technical challenges that occur with lighting when actors wear glasses.
In the novel Simon has two sisters. A younger sister Nora and an older sister Alice, who is a freshman at Wesleyan University. She has a secret boyfriend Theo, whom she introduces to her family after Simon comes out.
In the film Simon only has one sister, Nora. In the book she is a high school freshman and is in a band with Leah, Taylor, and Anna called ‘Emoji’. Nora in the film is younger and has a passion for cooking.
In the book Leah has a crush on Nick and this causes much of the tension between Abby and Leah. In the film Leah’s crush is transferred to Simon. Personally I did not think this change was necessary.
In the novel Simon’s best male friend Nick Eisner is a white Jewish kid who plays soccer and guitar. In the film Nick is portrayed by Jorge Lendeborg Jr., who is Dominican-born. Nick still plays soccer but the guitar is gone.
In the book prior to the Homecoming Game the school has a Spirit Week where the students have various dress up days such as Gender Bender Day and Music Day. This is cut from the script so audiences miss out on seeing Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Nick) and Keiynan Lonsdale (Bram) dressed as cheerleaders.
In the film we only see the Homecoming Game, but there is added moment where Martin makes a grand gesture and steals the microphone during the national anthem and declares his love for Abby.
In the novel the school is putting on a musical production of Oliver. Martin plays Fagin and Abby plays the Artful Dodger. In the film the school is putting on Cabaret.
In the book Nick and Abby take Simon to a gay bar where Peter a college guy buys him drinks. A scene where Nick takes Simon to a gay bar was shot with Colton Haynes playing the college guy but was cut during editing for pacing reasons. Hopefully this will be included as a deleted scene when the DVD is released.
In the novel Nick’s soccer teammate Garrett throws a Halloween party. Garrett is still in the film but it is Bram who throws the party. In the novel Simon goes to the party dressed as a Dementor from the Harry Pottter series. In the film Simon and Leah goes as John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Simon still keeps his love for Harry Potter as he tells the audience about his crush on Daniel Radcliffe when he was younger.
In the film Simon sees Bram hooking up with a girl at the Halloween Party. This was done to throw the audience off the track of Bram being Blue.
In the book after Simon is outed Blue does not wish to meet him but does leave him a Elliot Smith t-shirt for him at school. Simon stops emailing Blue because he thinks Blue does not like him now that he knows who he is. It turns out Blue had left a note for Simon with his number hidden inside the t-shirt. Simon decides to email Blue and invite him to the carnival. When he goes to put on the t-shirt he finds the note. As the carnival is about to close Simon rides on Tilt-A-Whirl and Bram comes up and sits next to him and reveals that he is Blue.
In the film there is no Elliot Smith t-shirt and Simon has no way of contacting Blue as he has closed his email address. So he creates his own blog post and invites Blue to meet him at the Carnival. There is a brief bait and switch where Martin reveals himself as Blue to try and save Simon the embarrassment of being alone. Bram eventually turns up and reveals himself as Blue.
Added Movie Moments
There a few cool scenes added for the film, such as where Simon imagines his friends having to come out as straight and a fantasy college dance number to Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’
New characters in the film
Vice Principal Worth (Tony Hale) an awkward, cringey Vice Principal trying to be hip with his students is added for the film.
The film also introduces Ethan (Clark Moore), the only openly gay student at Simon’s school. This allowed for a great scene where these two boys are sitting next to each other. They are both gay but couldn’t be more different.
Another new character created for the film is Waffle House waiter Lyle (Joey Pollari), who is one of the potential suspects for Blue.
Love, Simon is out in cinemas now. Go see it!
If you have seen the film let me know in the comments what you thought. I would also be interested of any other differences between the book and film that you may have noticed.
This month’s book club pick is Becky Albertalli‘s 2015 novel Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. A film adaptation titled Love, Simon directed by Greg Berlantiopened in US cinemas March 16th. It opens in cinemas here in New Zealand March 29th but I saw an advance screening yesterday afternoon.
Nick Robinson (The Kings of Summer, Jurassic World, 5th Wave) portrays Simon Spier, an average 17-year-old Atlanta high school senior.
On the surface life is good for Simon. He lives in a nice suburban home. His high-school sweetheart parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) are still happily married. He has a good relationship with his little sister Nora (Talitha Bateman, who worked with Robinson on The 5th Wave), and has a good group of friends.
Simon has one secret – he is gay.
When Simon learns that a fellow student, using the pseudonym Blue, has posted anonymously on a school blog that he is gay, he immediately begins exchanging anonymous emails with Blue.
The film has Nick’s soccer teammate Bram (The Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash‘s Keiynan Lonsdale), theatre kid Cal (13 ReasonsWhy‘s Miles Heizer) and Waffle House waiter Lyle (Joey Pollari) each take turns voicing Blue’s emails. This is a interesting technique to cover the mystery of who Blue is.
Simon’s secret is revealed when he leaves his Gmail account signed in on a school library computer and classmate Martin (Logan Miller) reads one of his emails. Martin uses the secret emails as leverage to blackmail Simon into helping him get a date with Simon’s friend Abby (X-Men Apocalypse‘s Alexandra Shipp).
He is scared that if Martin outs him he will lose Blue, so Simon starts lying and manipulating his friends to help Martin woo Abby. This includes convincing his best friends Leah (13 Reasons Why‘s Katherine Langford) and Nick (Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) to date when he learns Nick has a crush on Abby.
This sets up the dramatic tension and conflict for the film.
As it is marketed as a romantic coming-of-age teen comedy there are plenty of laughs with the supporting characters. Natasha Rothwell (Saturday Night Live writer) is brilliant and hilarious as the scene-stealing teacher directing the school production of ‘Cabaret’, which Simon, Abby and Martin are in. Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Veep) also provides plenty of comedy as the awkward, cringey Vice Principal trying to be hip with his students. There is also a very funny montage where his heterosexual friends have to come out as straight to their parents.
The film has an amazing soundtrack featuring music from the The Bleachers, Troye Sivan, Whitney Houston, Jackson 5.
Hopefully Love, Simon will pave the way for more LGBTQ+ representation in accessible, major studio-produced cinema.
Simon Spier is sixteen and trying to work out who he is – and what what he is looking for.
But when one of his emails to the very distracting Blue falls into the wrong hands, things get all kinds of complicated.
Because, for Simon, falling for Blue is a big deal…
Sixteen-year-old Simon Spier is growing up in a town just out of Atlanta, Georgia. He has a secret – he is gay, but no one knows it, except Blue who he found through a post on Tumblr. Simon (using the pseudonym Jacques) has been exchanging emails with Blue. Simon does not even know who Blue is except that he goes to his school.
The novel opens with Simon being blackmailed by Martin Addison. Simon had left his Gmail account signed in and Martin has read one of his emails – his secret is out. Martin wants Simon’s help to get a date with his friend Abby.
A large part of the novel is the mystery of who Blue is. There are clues throughout that if the reader pays careful attention to will reveal Blue’s identity. I have to admit I had it down to two characters, but couldn’t decide.
Albertalli’s debut novel is told through Simon’s first person narrative and the emails between Simon and Blue.
A sequel, Leah on the Offbeat is due for release 24 April 2018.
A feature film adaptation Love, Simon directed by Greg Berlanti and starring Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel is due out later this month.